4 Strategies to Help Church Parents Win

Posted by Aaron Buer on March 28, 2019

There’s a story I’ve heard over and over in my church.

It’s the story of new families making our church their home church because of our student ministry.

Their students find community in our student ministry, and they pull their parents into the church along with them.

I heard this story again after church this past weekend.

One of the most strategic things you can do as a church is to build a solid student ministry and a big part of a solid student ministry is serving parents well.

Here’s what I’ve learned about parents.

There might be some parents who do a better job than others in their role, but there are no parents out there whose goal it is to be a terrible parent.

The issue usually isn’t desire. It’s a lack of understanding and resources.

One of the best things your church can do is help parents in their role.

This post is about just that. Here are 4 strategies to help parents win:

1. A Key Relationship

One of the best ways you can help parents win is by building a solid student ministry.

What is needed during the middle school and teenage years is additional voices in the life of a student—voices of encouragement and support and voices that lead that student toward Jesus.

In our context, the student’s small group leader is a critical player in this process, and if there is a secret sauce to helping parents win, it is helping to build a relationship between parents and small group.

If the parents and the small group leader are on the same page, supporting and reinforcing each other and communicating with each other through the process...it can be GOLD.

So, a few ideas here:

  1. If your student ministry isn’t already built on small groups, I would highly encourage you to consider this strategy.
  2. Set up easy first interactions by providing contact information to both parents and leaders. Also, put together events that bring parents and leaders together and jumpstart conversations.
  3. Create new expectations for interactions. Consistently encourage parents to invite small group leaders over for dinner and encourage leaders to invite parents to coffee or lunch.

One way or another find a way to say, “This is what we do. It’s a normal part of the deal.”

2. Helpful Information

Another great way to help parents win is to consistently provide helpful information.

The funny thing, though, is that not all information is helpful.

For example, too much information...not helpful!

Also, information that I don’t need...not helpful!

And worst yet, inaccurate information...not helpful!

Here’s my strategy with communicating information with parents: Give them what they need when they need it.

It’s really that simple.

Doing this consistently basis will build trust with parents which is incredibly important.

Why is this important? Because if a parent trusts you, they are likely to reach out to you when they REALLY need your help with their student.

And, student ministry is all about capitalizing on and leaning in at those critical moments, but you have to earn the right by building trust.

So, how do you give parents what they need when they need it? Here are a few ideas:

  1. A mailing that goes out in the fall with a simple calendar and registration information. If you want to be a hero, include a card that outlines the dates and prices for every event you will do the entire year—retreats, camps, mission trips, etc. As a parent with multiple kids, this is incredibly helpful for vacations and budgeting.
  2. An email in the fall that lists their child’s small group leader’s favorite things: favorite Starbucks drink, favorite candy, favorite hobby, etc., so that parents can look like heroes when they reach out to encourage their kid’s small group leader.
  3. A weekly email that ONLY gives the critical information for that week with links to the information helpful to only certain parents. For example:

      Here’s what the teaching is on this week…, and here are two questions to ask your student on the drive home.... Also, here are links to mission trip and camp registrations.

  4. A “heads up” email that lands two weeks before any sensitive teaching or series. For instance, we'll send an email before teaching a series on sexuality. In this email we outline what we will talk about and when and then invite questions.
  5. A website or blog with all the important static information about your student ministry and important links. Click here to see ours and feel free to steal anything you like.

3. Help Adjusting

One of the trickiest parts of parenting is adjusting your approach to fit the different stages of your kids.

Your parenting style has to change from when Billy is 5 to when Billy is 15!

And, maybe you’ve walked through these transitions yourself...it’s harder than it looks!

Parents often need help adjusting their approach.

I’ve recently discovered a great book that you may find helpful. It’s called “Growing With” and it’s written by Kara Powell and Steve Argue who are part of the Fuller Youth Institute team.

One of the main ideas in this book is that journey through the teenage years into young adulthood comes in three stages and each stage requires a different approach as a parent.

It’s a great book. Give it a read, if it resonates with your church’s approach to ministry, buy a bunch and start handing them out.

4. Resources

Something I’ve learned the hard way is that parents usually don’t listen until they feel the need to listen.

They are all ears during transitions and crises but in between, they are usually like, “Yeah, yeah..."

There are two responses to this reality:

1. Be annoyed and negative about parents
2. Be prepared for the opportunities

Option 1 isn’t very helpful. Been there.

Option 2 is what’s up.

So, the strategy is to be ready for any and every possible request for help.

That sounds impossible, right? Not if you cheat.

Here’s another great resource for student pastors and parents alike, Axis.org.

You don’t have to know everything, or be prepared for every possible issue parents might bring up because this site addresses everything!

They have great parent guides available for just about everything out there.

There might be wisdom in purchasing a bunch and keeping them around.

Also, Axis.org has something called a “Culture Translator” which we often include in parent emails to help parents keep up with what is going on in the world of their student.

The site is fantastic and provides helpful information on the topics that just seem, well, impossible.

Wrap Up

Well, there you go. 4 Strategies for helping parents win. I hope this has been helpful. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Topics: Advice

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